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Do women in business events reset the gender balance?

Puzzling over the upsurge in business events that take a dedicated focus on ‘women’, Pinstone’s managing director, Catherine, asks if it’s a bandwagon to jump on, or a badly needed ‘reset’ to gender diversity in the world of business – and in particular, the food and farming sector.

Pinstone’s autumn networking calendar features regional, national and global events - including ‘Women in Dairy’; ‘Meat Business Women’ and ‘Women in Food and Agriculture’, held in Amsterdam in December. Are there any events that men can even attend anymore?

Last week’s Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber’s Women’s Business Forum is another example. This featured the inspiring Jo Hilditch, a rural entrepreneur and farmer – whose business success truly resonated as coming from a female leader who used the leverage from her PR background to develop her farming and associated drinks businesses.

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So, how important are role models like Jo?

Gender was never something I perceived as a barrier in developing Pinstone over the past 14 years, from ‘me’, to a 17-strong team of PR and marketing professionals based in rural north Herefordshire. I’ve never felt inhibited by gender in rising to the ‘lofty heights’ of current chairman of the 450 membership organisation, The British Guild of Agricultural Journalists, although I’m proud to promote the role of women in our sector and have overseen the introduction of the Guild’s President, Baroness Rosie Boycott, an inspirational female leader in her own right.

Although, thinking back to the scene you’d typically be greeted with on stepping into a food and farming supply chain event and a ‘sea of dark suits’ comes to mind. But ultimately, they are people working in an industry and once the threshold’s been breached, the welcome is both warm and respectful and the value of such an event reaches beyond the gender mix. It’s important the ‘women-only’ event headlines don’t go too far.

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However, I do believe the ‘reset’ is justified. My team is a collective of primarily female professionals. Many are walking the tricky tightrope of juggling their family and career to find the perfect ratio of work-life balance. It’s a really tough gig and the more business and industry can actively go about balancing those ‘seas of dark suits’ to put women on an equal footing and aspire to a 50:50 gender mix in business and across the food and farming supply chain, the better.

Catherine is managing director and founder of PR and marketing firm Pinstone, based in rural north Herefordshire. The business specialises in working for clients, nationwide, serving the rural, agri-food, environment and agricultural business sectors.

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